Riding a surrey along Alki Beach in Seattle. Credit: Lisette Wolter-McKinley
This summer there is so much to celebrate! After all we've been through, it feels extra special to be able to gather outside with the ones you love — and people you only like! To mark this almost-post-COVID summer, we've put together a list of favorite Seattle-area outdoor activities that showcase our phenomenal Northwest summers.
From splurges to budget-friendly, these activities focus on outdoor recreation, still the safest bet for families with kids younger than 12. We're not all the way out of the woods, but there is lots to celebrate during summer 2021!
1. Donut Boat rental from Seattle Donut Boat
You don't actually eat doughnuts on a Seattle Donut Boat ride? Well, you could, just bring some along! Seattle Donut Boats are named for their shape — boats resemble a giant floating doughnut. These round watercraft are fun and easy to maneuver around Lake Union. You don't need a boater's license or extensive water expertise to operate a donut boat. The boats are electric and steered by a tiller which you can learn to use during a quick tutorial. The boats can accommodate up to six people, making it the perfect self-contained summer family activity. Seattle Donut Boats have umbrellas to shade you from the hot summer sun and tables in the middle that are perfect for snacks — doughnuts, duh — out on the water.
Details: A two-hour rental costs $198; reserve online.
2. Surrey rental on Alki with Wheel Fun Rentals
You don't need to be a tourist to cruise along one of Seattle's most popular waterfronts, Alki Beach. At Wheel Fun Rentals, choose your cruising equipment: a surrey, a beach cruiser, a tandem and more. A surrey, which is sort of like a carriage bicycle with team pedaling, promises lots of fun and laughs. If you are feeling extra adventurous, pedal over to Marination Ma Kai for loco moco, fish and chips, or a guava pop. Even on a summer day, pack a light jacket because the breeze off the water can make it feel much cooler.
Details: A regular surrey rental costs $29 per hour and seats up to three adults plus two very small kids. A double surrey rents for $39 per hour and seats up to six, plus two very small kids.
3. Take me out to the ball game
Baseball isn't America's pastime for nothing: fresh air, hot dogs, the seventh-inning stretch, and cheering for old and new favorite players. We're lucky to have one major-league and two minor-league teams all close by — the Seattle Mariners, Everett AquaSox and Tacoma Rainiers. There's sure to be be at least one game that fits your family's schedule this summer. (And unlike some pro sports — looking at you, Seahawks — a baseball game can be pretty affordable.) Gather your friends and fam, for there is nothing more quintessentially summer than an afternoon or evening at the ballpark.
Details: Tickets start at about $10 per person; buy online. Vaccinated-only sections are available.
4. Sunset sail with Sailing Seattle
Set sail on the glittering Puget Sound right from Pier 56. Board a U.S. Coast Guard-certified performance racing yacht and feel the wind through your hair and the sunshine on your face. Enjoy an evening on the water as you watch the sun dip behind the Olympic Mountains. Make certain to bring a jacket, a blanket, snacks and beverages to end your day — and celebrate summer — on a spectacularly high note.
Details: The two-hour sunset sail costs $59 per adult and $46 per child ages 5–12; kids 4 and younger sail free. Daytime sails of 90 minutes or two hours are also available. Book online.
5. Family SUP rental from the REI Boathouse at Enatai Beach Park
If the idea of getting out on the water under human power sounds appealing, look no further than the newer REI Boathouse at Enatai Beach. Here you can rent stand-up paddleboards, canoes and kayaks. For a true exercise in family fun and cooperation, try the six-person stand-up paddleboard, which, if you can believe it, is even more fun than it sounds. Paddle to the nearby wetlands for calm water and enjoy an afternoon of bird watching and lily pad dodging.
Details: The six-person SUP rental costs $69 for the first hour and $20 for each additional hour; six personal floatation devices and six paddles are included. Kayak, SUP and canoe rentals range from $29–$49 for the first hour; $10 each additional hour. The boathouse is currently open Thursday–Sunday.
6. Watercraft rental from Dock Street Marina Paddle Sports
South Sound-area families can ply the calm waters of the Thea Foss Waterway on a kayak or SUP rental from Dock Street Marina Paddle Sports. The protected Foss waterway is an ideal place for families to try out paddleboarding or kayaking, with less potentially intimidating boat traffic. You and your crew can perfect your paddling skills, enjoy the scenery and check out the different view of Tacoma's waterfront, from the water.
Details: Kayak and SUP rentals cost $20–$25 for the first hour and $5–$10 for each additional hour. Dock Street Marina Paddle Sports opens daily at 8:30 a.m.; call ahead for availability: 253-250-1906.
7. Dinner and kayak cruise at Agua Verde
Forget dinner and a movie and say hello to a Seattle-style family date night: dinner and kayaking. Work up an appetite exploring the busy waterway of Portage Bay before devouring a plate of spicy catfish tacos and a heaping pile of chips and salsa. Agua Verde is your one stop for food, fun and a memorable outing on the water. Agua Verde's restaurant is open for dine-in or enjoy your takeout picnic at the tiny park next door.
Details: Single and double kayaks rent for $21–$28 per hour. The paddle club is open daily except Wednesdays in June for walk-up rentals. Agua Verde also offers guided tours.
8. Low-tide exploration with Seattle Aquarium beach naturalists
This glorious summer activity is budget-friendly — it's free. Stroll along the beach during low tide when beach naturalists from the Seattle Aquarium will help identify what you find and share everything they know about the abundant marine life living along our coastline. They'll also let you know how to keep it safe. Find beach naturalists stationed during low-tide days at the following parks: Richmond Beach, Carkeek Park, Golden Gardens, Olympic Sculpture Park Pocket Park, Charles Richey Sr. Viewpoint, Lincoln Park, Seahurst Park, Des Moines Beach Park, Saltwater State Park, Redondo Beach and Dash Point State Park.
Details: Check the link above for low-tide dates and times in June, July and early August. A Discover Pass is required to park at Saltwater State Park and Dash Point State Park.
9. Try new foods at a local farmers market
Eating locally grown, in-season produce is a wonderful way to "eat the rainbow." Local farmers markets are the best place to find this edible rainbow, and letting kids pick out new and unusual foods is a great way to encourage them to try new fruits and vegetables. Get to know what is ripe with a weekly visit to your local farmers market, and get to know the farmers, who will have recommendations. Find a market near you for weekly family tradition, or pick a market by the day of the week at the website above, and get ready for an affordable, delicious and nutritious family outing.
Details: Choose your county at the link to search for neighborhood farmers markets or search by day of the week for the day you want to go. A few examples: The Kirkland Wednesday Market runs 3–7 p.m.; the Burien Farmers Market takes place Thursdays, 11 a.m.–6 p.m.; the Proctor Farmers' Market in Tacoma runs Saturdays, 9 a.m.–2 p.m.
10. Electric Boat rental from The Electric Boat Company
This special outing suits a graduation, birthday or overdue family reunion celebration. The standard electric boat holds up to 10 passengers and the larger luxury boat holds up to 12 passengers. Grab a picnic dinner and spend a couple of hours cruising around Lake Union, meandering through the rows of houseboats and watching the seaplanes take off and land. As even our summer weather can be unpredictable at times, Electric Boat Company boats can be open-air for beautiful summer days, or can be heated and fully enclosed for cooler summer nights.
Details: Standard boats rent for $250 for a two-hour block; luxury boats rent for $350 for a two-hour block. Reserve online in advance. Driving the boat is akin to driving a golf cart and the designated "captain" in your party will receive a quick training.
Whether you're entertaining out-of-town relatives, rejoicing in the fact that your family survived a year of mostly virtual learning, or you're just excited about the vaccine, have a great time celebrating our Seattle summer.